The up-Island school committee heard updates this week on school re-opening, prompting preliminary discussion around bringing the entire student body back to the building later this fall.

The prospect of bringing all students back to the building has been looming since the re-opening process began. School principals and administrators had agreed to evaluate plans for more robust in-school instruction, depending on infection rates, once the initial phase-in is complete.

On Tuesday, with students in grades K-3 already back in the building, and grades 4-8 set to return over the course of the month, committee chairman Alex Salop raised the question of bringing the entire student body back on a more regular basis, and possibly increasing the number of days per week from four to five days.

“We still have some work to do to get students fully in the classroom and while we have not set a date, I’m not suggesting to do that at this point in time, I would like to know, particularly what level of comfort you have regarding bringing the body back into the classroom,” he said.

West Tisbury principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said under the current re-opening plan, the school would have plenty of space to accommodate the entire student body, but certain details, like pickup and dropoff, will need to be adjusted.

“We built the model to have room for all students to return,” Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said.

Chilmark principal Susan Stevens agreed, noting that the school would keep abridged days for the first week when all students return.

School superintendent Matthew D’Andrea said he plans to meet with the health and safety committee later this week and format a plan by the end of October.

“As was discussed, we have to really start looking at what is the next step, what is the next phase,” Mr. D’Andrea said.

In other business, school principals shared updates on smaller school programs, including the Chilmark School’s remote learning cafe at the town community center, and the USDA’s recent approval of a waiver to provide free lunches for students through the end of the school year.

Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said she is interested in the idea of a wastewater testing program at the West Tisbury School, after plans for a school-wide testing program were redirected at an all-Island school committee meeting last week.

“Depending on how often you test, it could be a great early warning signal to having the virus in the wastewater and knowing you need to really push testing, or do testing in your school,” said Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt.

Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said she has been communicating with leaders on Nantucket who are using a wastewater testing program, and has been identifying places in her budget, including CARES act monies, to cover the cost of testing, regardless of plans for a school-wide program.

“If we can early detect issues in the school and separate people and get testing. I don’t think we can spend our money better than that,” Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said.

Also Tuesday, the committee voted to approve the Wampanoag tribe policy and procedures document for the 2019-2020 school year, overdue from last year. The policy, part of the school’s impact aid, outlines the school’s obligation to provide students from the tribe with equal access to school programs and services. A new document for the current school year will be brought to the committee this winter.

The committee voted unanimously to approve the document, and Robert Lionette suggested a more in-depth discussion of the policy in the near future.

The committee also approved the second reading of a school mask policy and set dates in October and November to discuss the FY22 school budgets.